tv Book Discussion on Our Man in Charleston CSPAN August 31, 2015 7:00am-8:01am EDT
>> government will rather give tax incentives to the large developers but not comparable advantages to the individual property owner, whether it be a renter or a resident/owner, and this is a challenge that are solutions, but, again, the funding only goes to the top. >> those of you who want to hear more from roberta you will have to buy her book as she signs it for you. thank you all for being here. thanks for the panel for being
clear patient with their moderator and have a good evening. [inaudible conversations] >> you're watching book tv, television for serious readers. you can watch any program you see here online at booktv.org. >> here is a look at the current best selling nonfiction books. topping the list national correspondent for magazine, between the world and me. former president jimmy carter reflects on life and political career in a full life. also in the denver postlist of nonfiction best sellers is h is for hawk by helen mcdonald, being mortal, and the what if,
randal monroe. many of these authors have or will be appearing on book tv. you can watch them on our website book booktv.org. >> christopher dickey is next on book tv. he he recalls the the war bunch in the american civil war. [applause] >> it's working? okay. good. it's great to be here, politics and pros, which is really one of the great independent bookstores in the united states. i love independent bookstores. [applause] >> i was here once talking years ago and i never forgot it and
been looking forward to coming back ever since. it's great to be here to see friends from washington post. i appreciate that. i'm going to tell you a little bit about the book and how i came to write it and move as quickly as possible to questions and answers or at least questions and attempts at answers at about the book, the south, confederacy, the confederate flag if you're not tired of talking about it. see, that accent coming back already. we're in the south. actually i was born in nashville, tennessee, my mother's family is from west tennessee around union city
tennessee, and then i grew -- i went to elementary school in atlanta and then we moved to oregon when i was 1 # -- 11 years old. everybody made fun of me with accent. what do you want me to say? they all cracked up. you lose it but it does come back. if i go into a filling station in south carolina from filler up on i'm speaking with a southern accent. also i think it's safer to do that. [laughs] >> otherwise you get that you ain't from around here, are you? [laughs] >> so 25 years ago i was reading a biography of a famous british
explorer and spy that visited the united states in 1860 and disappeared for several weeks some where from washington, d.c. and new orleans. i don't know what he was doing, and i don't think anybody does. i had a hunch that there was a compelling story of british spies in the american south in the eve of the war. it seems like a good idea. this was a project that i picked up and put down. the one day that i said i'm just going to do nothing and work on this book was early in september 2001, i closed the doors, i turned off the tv and thank god the super of the
building came in and said, you see the planes the hit the center. finally it took me about 15 years before i came across the private and correspondent of british console which was in south carolina. no one had ever looked closely at who he was and what he was doing. in fact, all interpretations were completely wrong. indeed, till this day, i just checked, there's not even a wikipedia entry. everyone says, wow. anybody gets a pick --
wikipedia. there's no english entry for robert bunch so far. i was able to find a lot of his correspondents. i read through dispatches and letters and were scattered all over england. i realized that he was a critical player in what amanda forman -- this minor diplomat had helped mightily to defeat the confederacy and determine the faith of these united states, so i knew i had my man. and the book taking shape was no longer in any respect going to be a work of fiction. this was a history that might change the way we think about
the civil war, and growing up in the south i thought a lot about the civil war. but in the meantime, a great deal-history had been made. united states -- developed a following even as a black man that echoed lincoln, elected to be president of the united states. news broke of the massacrer in charleston, once again a fur use debate about the confederate battle flag and the civil war and what it is that we should or should not remember about all that. the coincidence was appalling, but it wasn't completely surprising. one of the things i had learned over a quarter century while covering as a foreign
correspondent the succession of american military actions, most of which have been forgotten, one war that never ends for many people in the united states is a war between the states and one of the most important lessons i learned about that war is how badly we had failed to understand the most obvious lesson. it needs to be remember that the history of wars is largely a history of delusions, those dreams of rapid victories based on simple strategies that lead to long nightmares of slaughters pattology that takes over politics and eventually the whole people discouraging all debate. costs are not calculateed.
i'll leave it to you to ponder for which it is a problem today. the first lesson that we should learn a war from the states it was based on delusions which a man in charleston, british counsel robert bunch understood and reported on with accuracy. the reasons that the fightings began in 1861 and the reasons that it turned out as it did seemed simple to me when i studied the conflict more closely. state's rights, yes, free trade, the insults, the south law dominance of the federal government and the economies addictions of savory all drove the southerners towards the session. amid the turmoil the extremist played each other that the
voices of the moderation, the voices of the majority on each side were lost and to an amazing extent have remained obscure today many americans ever since. and yet as console bunch saw clearly, and, indeed, stated in the whord -- ordnances. there's no question that the south succeeded to defend slavery and the north to stop succession. you can reduce to 140 characters. next time you hear anybody say the war was not about slavery, you can tweet that out. the south suck sided to defend slavery and the north went to war to stop succession. that's what the civil war was
about. there should be no debate about that today, and yet, there is because people claim to delusion and conviction than they devote to facts. lets not debate why it was the south succeeded, why it was the north went to war, but here is an aspect of history that is not denied so much as it is ignored. lets understand that when succession finally seemed inevitable the notion that made it possible, was based on a single stunningly simple and stunningly wrong calculation. the successionists assumed that britain most powerful nation had no choice but to support. if it came to a fight, the british would supply the money, the arms and the naval power to
guaranteed the south separation from the union. they would sweep away, they would bottle up what was, in fact, a federal army at the beginning of the war and that would be check-mate, game over. raw cotton was the most important international commodity of the 19th century. you could say it was oil to the 21st. britain got 80% of its raw cotton from the slave owning south. so the succession has figured that britain would have no choice but to back them. the confederate tail would wag the british bulldog.
i don't think i'll say that again. [laughs] were what they did not count on was that the british might hold their knowses would butt. london could say, that was an internal problem for the united states, but there were limits. where the british drew the line on this whole question of slave-grown cotton was on the question of slave trade in africa had recognized for more than 50 years as essentially a holocaust and fight, africa, cuba, south america. what console bunch did in his secret dispatches was to take the rhetoric of the southern
extremists and turn it against them. argued that slavery was not a necessary evil in their world, which was the popular view, but a positive good for the inferior black race which god, in fact, had created to be enslaved. the slave trade with africa must be reopened. how could you say it was a bad thing. that was denying slavery was a good thing. it also escaped nobody's notice that the south was running low on slave labor and the price had risen. one of the things that people don't understand was that it was a bubble market in humans just before the civil war. to keep expappedding the cotton growing economy the south needed
more land. that's what texas is about, that's what the war with méxico was about and that's what the efforts to take cuba was about. once we got the land, once we conquered the land it needed more slaves to work the land. the land really wasn't worth that much unless you can open it up and grow the cotton and move on. the great thing about slaves is that they were portable. you could just keep taking your labor force with you. they didn't have to think about it. so all of this plays and so convincing was he that -- with his arguments that they had no choice but to open the transit slave trade even when the constitution banded it in 1861,
don't pay any attention to that, that's just something they're saying for now and they'll change, of course, immediately as soon as they win their independence if that happens. every time that the crown came close to backing the confederacy and there were those times certainly in 1861 and 1861, the question of the slave trade came up and every time the south gave the wrong answer to the british cabinet. so what was it that drove bunch to do all this? ultimately although he was no master spy, i have to say in some key respects he was george smiley, he was a professional recipienting the interest of his government as best he could a prowhose job involved excursions in the human behavior disciplined by the application
of their own deduction. which i think some of my colleagues in the national post will find it familiar of a job. thanks to our man in charleston the united states remained united even if in the minds of some the war between the states goes on. thank you. [applause] >> so now questions and answers. come on, please. yes. >> actually i have two questions for you. the first one is a simple fact. i grew up from charleston and i'm curious if you knew -- >> yeah, he started off -- >> okay. >> 58 trad street is now what it is now.
>> right. >> but it's a couple of doors away. >> okay. >> it was just two blocks. very much. >> my real question is in south carolina in the revolutionary war, basically a civil war, clear ugly, lot of hard feelings, a lot of of the independence quarters were down in charleston. i can see economic reasons to cooperate on both sides, but did the old-hard feelings still influence some of the politics between confederacy and britain? >> well, actually it was kind of confused in charleston as a result of those emotions. he's sending back, they're
quartering me, the succession was saying to the british, we really would like to be part of the empire again, maybe we could answer again. at the same time they were celebrating evacuation day, the day that british pulled out of charleston. there were mixed messages not only from the same community but from the same people. >> you mentioned that he sent so many dispatches and reports to london, et cetera, sometimes through washington, apparently to british ships, apparently used some kind of code because i find it clear odd that messages
were not intercepted and read from the south. how did he get away with it? >> not the words that was actually revealing what he was doing. in fact, he was at the center of a huge diplomatic incident because stewart had spies everywhere, but he -- we think was not opening dip -- diplomatic back, but after the war had gun, often had to employ couriers who had come from britain and one of them got caught by stewart's people, two of them and one of them had a note that bunch had been involved with an effort to talk to the confederate government about observing british neutrality. stewart threw a fit and demanded
that bunch be removed from the office and the british refused to do it. they knew what bunch had been reported and where his actual analysis was and where his loyalties were and they refused to take him out. it set the stage where the british and americans almost went to war all that happened within three months. >> used a code. what kind of code? >> i hope you're a photographer because a lot of the letters, quite a few of the letters that i got were -- were in code and i fear that it was one time pad. in fact, there's uncoded
correspondentence, you know, i think i'm going to master this code thing. i'm doing my best on it, but it's, you know, so time consuming, he would break out of codes frequently. there are some letters that are in little bit of code and some handwritten and then there's a couple in the collection that if it's not a one-time pad might allow photographer because they've been decoded. >> well, thank you for all of this. i come from a different perspective as a descendant of people that wb enslaved, so i take the whole issue of slavery, its causes, ramifications, the way in which we see it still reflected and certainly in
carlos tone clear serious. i'm sure that you're aware that mother e -- i'm glad that you mentioned him several times in your book. i'm curious as to when how much time you spent there and what your thoughts are about contemporary charleston and if you seen the statutes that just now in hampton park. >> yeah. >> magnificent statute. >> yeah. i went before the incidents in emannuel. i'm going back in a couple of weeks, as a matter of fact, but as to get a sense ton ground of -- on the ground to see the way things are. ii have friends talk to go me about -- talk to me about the
situation going down there. i was horrified by what happened, but gratified by the reaction to it by finally by the powers of in the state government, with nikki hailey comes out and says, we have to take that flag now. that's good if you a a republican state senator. you know, a lot of them saying, it's time for it to come down, and the debate is good. it's good for people to remember that that flag, the battle flag of the northern virginia was the flag that was flown by robert e. lee and he surrendered. it started flying again as a
response to the civil rights movement in the 1950's. that's what that flag represents. when i was going to school in atlanta, you know, most of the state flag of georgia was the battle flag of northern virginia, and of course, it was flying over the state capital the whole time. my father was teaching in the university of south carolina. i'm glad that people are finally looking at that issue, more or less, although there have been 100-plus proconfederate rallies, i don't know how big scattered on the south. >> and it will continue to be and i don't want anyone to underestimate -- >> i don't think so. >> unbelievable acts of you know, forgiveness.
>> cristianity. >> absolutely. >> i know y'all are going to have to fight it out there. [inaudible conversations] >> i've been noting that the texas state board covering textbooks has been recently considering history books in this treatment of slavery. i'm curious whether you have -- whether you have had any opportunity to talk about your book in texas or -- >> not yet. or or communications with those people and what you might recommend to those trying to -- a broader view of history seems to be reflected. >> i would recommend that ever grade -- [laughs] >> buy this book, but i don't think that's going to happen in texas. i mean, texas is still one of those places where politicians
stand up and talk about succession. i mean, what are they thinking. >> two questions, the first and smallest, when this was made into a movie who would you like to play bunch? >> i don't know, i haven't really given it any thought. >> the second question is when you decided this was the person of interest, where did you start your research and what primary resources would you discover? >> we started -- i focused on bunch when i was doing this research about richard francis burden and i was going to the counselor dispatches which is a great to work. you could go, it's terrible well organized and for this work, anyway, looking at 19th century
diplomatic -- you can photograph all of it. that's what i did. i would go into -- go to cue and get what i wanted and photograph hundreds of pages and look at everything on my computer when i was working on the book. but that a lot has been looked at for about maybe half a dozen books and papers over the years. what hadn't been looked at is correspondents. there was a oxford, library
where you can find the correspondence up until 1856. his correspondence with others was north of record office in england, and then as it happened, the biggest pro it's the most unusual experience that i ever had, castle, which is the duke of north state was and still is, it's an enormous castle. if you ever saw the movie young victoria, it doubled and the archives are kept in the ar chie
tower and you go into security and you go to the archive tower and they have a table covered with green cloth and you sit there and look through correspondence. all of that. it's just fantastic stuff but it's also kind of a funny, funky place to be because you're all with boxes of letters and people and you're looking through glass and there are these sort of leaning against the wall victor ia posters and that was the motherload. his personal -- >> personal dairies. >> he's clear witty and clear
acerbic and doesn't hold anything back. he says outrageous things, but usually true. >> great, thank you. >> i one time where both parties used the same like the bible or telephone book -- in this case it would be random symbols. in this case it would be random symbols. the code was in a -- a lot of the code was in greek letters, but not all of it. one time pad is actually a pad that is given out to two parties or multiple parties and then there is a way of figuring out the corr -- correspondence.
>> for both partyies? >> around the time of the john brown affair where it looked like everything was going to go to hell in a hand basket. the ones that are decrypted are talking about true deployments in south carolina as a result of suspected slave uprising but you have to guess what these things are when it's not decrypted. >> you mentioned the trent affair. one of the people who was arrested in that on the high seas i believe was a former
congressmen from louisiana who was serving as a secretary to the two diplomats. the reason i'm going and i hope you can respond to me is corkin who founded the gallery here and has been -- also founded oak hill cementary, made his money selling u.s. bonds to finance the mexican war in the 1850's. did you come across him in your research? >> i didn't really. there's rerch r reference to him and the whole arrest of mason but i didn't get into him -- i didn't get into any details. is there a wikipedia entry of
that. >> he was an interesting guy in lots of ways, he supported churches and founded a whole near -- the louis home which is now something, something, something. >> the nursing home. >> yeah, yeah. he was a good guy except he believed in states rights and backed the south. >> believed in slavery. >> no, he had -- i believe he had freed his own slaves in washington, in dc in 1840's. >> well, we'll have to look that up in wikipedia, maybe. [laughs] >> i think you said bunch left charleston in 1863, why did he
leave and how did he get out? >> he left on a british warship. the british were able to move their warships in and out of charleston on most of the conflicts. he left because the siege was about to begin in early 1863, charleston never failed. he actually lost the accreditations given by the federal government in 1861 but the british wouldn't removed. they were afraid that the forces moved, he would be in a dangerous position and so they took him out.
>> did the british government have any other diplomatic representatives in the south, in the civil war -- >> yeah. >> if so, what were their roles and what were their relationships with your subject? >> well, the british had 14 consoles in the united states in 1860. but only two of them were paid professionals, the rest were more or less what you would call honrary consoles. they did report to the crown, the correspondents. he was a clear rich man and was unreliable reporter, others were desperate to get out, more or less citizens from britain,
there was one in mobile, alabama, he just couldn't stand it and but there was another one that i don't think we know enough about how he was paid, william in new orleans was quite good. he was a little bit more similar -- but it was pretty straight. there was one in richmond who was okay, it was an honrary console. but bunch was a professional and the other professional was archer who was the console in new york city. he was running a whole spy network in cuba at the same
time, because one of the things that i discovered -- i should have said this earlier, one of the things that i discovered is that there were two sets of diplomatic dispatches, one is the set having to do with more or less conventional political and specially economic issues, tariffs, custom barriers, things like that, the particular issues they were in and the other set was slavery. in 1860's the single biggest division was the slave trade. they were tracking the save trade everywhere on the globe. it was evenly divided between the slave correspondents as well
as with a lot of political reporting. >> thank you, but in the slave trade correspondence, what would they talk about? >> one of the things that you have to know that most people don't know is that slave trade was outlawed by great britain and the united states in 1807, great britain emancipated their own slaves, the south did not, the southern united states. slave trade went onto brazil until 1850 and to cuba until after the american civil war, and the slave trade to cuba was huge, slave trade the cuba was a little bit different from the slave trade in the united states. growing cotton and cane is
something else. what the cuban economy depended on was deportation of africans that could be bought and worked to death and replaced with cheap labor again. now, that is horrible. what's really horrible is that almost all of that was taking place under the stars and striebs, the american flag. the reason for that was that going back to the war of 1812 and before the american said the british could not ship any vessels. the americans refused to sign suspect slavers. they would go out and pick up thaib -- their cargoes.
they would run up their stars and stripes and refused to get searched. there was an american squad in the coast of africa. they spent most of the time interfering with the british efforts to capture them. you also have to remember, this is something people forget. the federal government was controlled by the south until 1850's. that was what the south didn't want to lose. that's why there was so much much anger and fear in the south in the 1850's is because they saw they were going to lose control of the senate, so one of the things that they wanted to do was cake over cuba because cuba would have given them two more states, four more senators to back the slave cause, all of that is almost lost. it's not a secret, people just don't know it.
it tells you why the cubans feel the way they do about a lot of issues. it tells you how corrupt the north was as well as south and how much it was implicated in the his or horrors of the slave. i'm sure they have books on the slave trade. there's going to be on the 18th century and 19th century. slave trade was ever bit as horrible as slave trade at any point. they would take on and there were examples of people starting to reopen, other boats that the british were reporting on, would pick up 400, 500, 600 slaves and lose a 150, 200, 250. just throw them overboard when
they got sick because they were crammed in as one american naval officer who was involved in the short-lived effort to stop the slave trade to cuba, he said there wasn't enough space to die in below decks. this is what the succession wanted to reopen, this is what they were arguing that was good. there's a chapter in the book where a ship called the echo or putnam was brought into charleston harbor and it stank, one of the characteristics of slave trade was that they were putrid. they didn't see the people unless they went out to what was the still unfinished center where they took the slaves off
the ship and they put them and you read the charleston mercury, they were happy, well fed, dancing. you read the dispatch of the sheriff who took cared of them who was a proslave trade guy, he says, he described the people so weak that they couldn't get over -- they would have to sit down and swing their legs over. dying one after another after another after another and even when they were put on the biggest american warship at that time the niagara and taken back to africa, in fact, lie -- lyberia, when anybody tells you
it's not about slavery, oh, hell, yeah, it was all about slavery. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> that was a great note. >> i thought so. [laughs] >> but, you know, figures like bunch who become kind of unexpected heros because they -- they seize the moment are really fascinating, i wonder if you have any thoughts about why bunch did this and what causes somebody to act that way at their moment? >> well, you know, one of the fun things, if that's the word,
about writing a book like this, fiction or nonfiction, there's always a process of discovery, but when things come together in nonfiction is telling you stuff that you would never have known or would have been smart to write enough in fiction. and the thing about bunch is that he's not a heroic character. he's not heroic. he thinks he's going to advance his career because he's a console and he's tired of writing about ships in and out of port and there was a political question which was negro semen act. horrific stories came out from the to your torture and people l
trying to part the true from the fiction on that, but it was just a horror story that lingered with everybody. had been brought from the caribbean and won the lottery and bought his freedom and was a figure in the black community in carlos -- charleston, so the lesson was we don't want any free people coming from the caribbean, and so what they would do is if a british boat landed with even a black on it, he had to be thrown in jail and held there until the ship left, and if the -- a bond was not paid, he would just sort of disappear in the world of the domestic slave trade in south carolina, so that was the issue
that bunch seized on and thought he would make political headway and he did all that and eventually he got that law modified in a way, but he was a careerist, that what was he started out to do, but from his earliest days there actually with his wife and child, you see the way people around him talked about it, the way they talked about beating their slaves. he had been there like two months and he talks about a conversation with a lawyer who lived next door to him who said that he personally beated slaves both men and women after making them undress and telling them that they were lucky to be touched by him.
it gives you a feel for the atmosphere. bunch basically said, you know, i just can't accept this. but he was a member of the jockey club. he would go to all the dinners. everybody thought he was their best friend. when he sailed out the warship in 1863 said he must be being removed because he was sympathetic to the south. [laughs] >> that's what i'm saying. yes. [inaudible] >> remind us what occurred then. >> oh, well, there was a really good movie about it, but what happened was -- i'm trying to remember exactly because it was about 20 years -- 1840's i
think and it didn't involve my people directly so i didn't follow it as closely as others, but one of the great stories was that i can tell you about was that the same ship the echo eventually was taken by the confederates when the war began and it seized a ship down the coast of south america that had several crew members, including the cook that was black, and that ship was being taken back to charleston, and the cook killed crew and sailed it to new york instead. [laughs] >> he became a great hero and was on displayed on the can youe
circus. there were slaved -- these issues happened, but the specifics, i'm not the person to tell you about that. >> thank you. i thought you were going to say the civil war. >> thanks. >> i work with a lot of young people. >> i'm glad i'm holding my own. but what happened in charleston really took it back 50 years, exactly what made the civil rights movement so incredibly powerful, when you were talking about charleston, how much of a movement was there? i should know this.
after the mexican war, how much of a movement was there to take over parts -- we didn't do it. >> we did a lot of it. [laughs] >> no, no. took all the empty land but -- >> yeah. >> there was a lot of back and forth about the old country. >> it was a big drive. >> slave trade -- >> did méxico have slaves? >> no. >> cuba did. >> not the way cuba. cuba did at that point, but the idea of a lot of the southerners was to expand into méxico and take slaves there. that's why you need today bring them from africa and it was a -- it was -- there was also an effort the same as william walker expedition to nicaragua,
filibuster -- >> yeah. >> who was interested in a lot of the issues. he was -- it was interested that the emperor of france and took over méxico, the south would act as a buffer state between imperial méxico and the union government in the north, when, in fact, they want méxico for themselves. you have to remember that cotton burned up the land. >> yeah. i don't want to take time, but i lived in austin quite a while. part of the reason that mexicans were able to take over texas is because the indians specially
stop it had mexicans, stopped the spanish and when they went north there, they wiped them out. we need to keep them close enough to seal the horses. >> that was before -- >> in california. >> yeah. >> part of the americans took over because they can pour in. they were like the english in australia in america showing up with the wives and kids and slaves. americans came pouring in. there were 50,000 american and three to 5,000 mexicans when the revolution broke out. >> i'm sure people are getting hungry, the other thing that was going on the gold rush that began in 1849, there was a huge imperative to get to california.
authors and books every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> criminal prosecution of corporate managers and corporations themselves in the worst health safety and environmental cases should be among our top priorities as a nation and as a community. we should work in a concerted and relentless way to promote those kinds of prosecutions. on some level you all agree that bad guys should go to jail, but our community as a whole does not spend much time -- largely because we've been fighting blazing fires all over town -- focusing on that solution. and i think it is one that has a lot of popular appeal and that
also has the potential to sort of break through the regulatory gridlock we find ourselves enmeshed in. so my first argument is a heart of ethical politics or political ethics. sounds pretty professor y'all, doesn't it? as rod mentioned, we have a longstanding neglect of white collar crime in this country. it is extraordinarily acute. there has been a shocking neglect of these kinds of cases at the federal level. and as we begin to talk about the critical issue of mass incarceration which is the sort of outcome of all the terrible things that have been happening
in our cities to people of color, i think it's very important that we also raise the other side of it which is that the justice system -- some would say the injustice system in this country -- is very, very good at throwing poor people of color in jail and very, very bad about policing rich corporate executives and managers who are so reckless and so grossly negligent that people die in the workplace, as consumers, and we suffer irrevocable damage to the environment, and that i'm thinking of good old bp that was a amazing scofflaw for ten years and was rapped on knuckles many times until its final act was so sensational. and even now the company's saying, ah, we're coming back. our stock price is back, not to
worry. so neglect of white collar crime not only reflects a difference, a discrimination between two classes of people in a very unfair way, but it also throughouts the ultimate -- flouts the ultimate goals of the criminal justice system. longstanding belief that criminal prosecutions are good because they punish people, they deter crime and in the white collar area nothing could deter crime more effectively than having the fbi or the state police show up at your door to interview you as a potential target. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. you're watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers.